Lessons learned
July 20, 2015
by Jenni Sebora

This is what I learned, or confirmed, on the mission trip that I experienced recently with 20 teens – every individual wants to belong, wants to feel valued, and there is good in everyone.

For some teens, especially, you may have to dig a little deeper, connect, and help them retrieve it, but the good is there.

It doesn’t mean they won’t stumble and fumble along the way, and engage in or do some “dumb stuff,” but when positive behaviors are engaged in and you see it or know it, a little pat on the back goes a long way in boosting self-worth.

I am not sure of Dr. Phil’s exact verbage, but he often says something like this, “It takes a bunch of ‘atta boys’ to wipe out one put-down.”

Certainly, there needs to be discipline, and children and teens need to be taught right from wrong, but how it is done, and the words used make a difference. Even if there is a rule or guideline that is in place, reminders of these can be said and done respectfully.

Communication, talking, and just plain old listening, as well as humor are ways to connect with children and teens.

In our 15-passenger van, my cohort adult chaperone and I conversed a lot with the teens.

We did a round-robin discussion, and asked each of them to convey what they were interested in doing after graduating from high school, as we had a few students who would be seniors, juniors, and sophomores.

The peers in the van would add comments or ideas for possible careers for each other. It was a great conversation, and it was really positive, listening to teens talk about goals and aspirations, and their beliefs in one another.

Setting goals, and the work on their attainment is what keeps kids on a healthy track in life. Having others believe in you increases the likelihood that you will make healthy choices.

Lots of singing and laughing kept our extensive van ride very tolerable, and even fun.

The students got to know others who they did not know very well. New friendships and acceptances were formed.

I, as an adult, got the opportunity to get to know kids I did not know very well. This was one of the best parts of the trip.

Our mission trip was part of Camp Restore in New Orleans.

It is run by a church. Each morning, as we ate breakfast, the organizers and leaders of Camp Restore would give us announcements, reminders, and lead us in prayer.

The first day, one of the organizers explained that we would be doing a variety of different mission duties.

It is the 10-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina, and while much progress has been made in the rebuilding, there is still work to be done.

Our duties, however, did not necessarily relate directly to hurricane Katrina.

This organizer explained that what they have learned in Camp Restore’s 10-year mission is that not only are the people who were affected by the hurricane positive recipients of mission help, but so are the people who are involved in mission work.

She further conveyed that, many times, people participate in mission activities because they want to connect and heal from something, as well. Thus, you never know who will be affected by the work done, or how someone may grow and learn.

This really stayed with me, and I truly believe this.

There is such a camaraderie developed among those involved in a mission – friendships are formed, understanding is developed, and caring and giving are the foundation.

So much good comes out of participating in mission activities and duties – they are good for everyone involved.

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